First Roller Derby Home Bout Set For Tonight

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The Appalachian Hell Betties take to the Bird Arena rink tonight in their first home bout against the Toledo Glass City Rollers.

Being unfamiliar with roller derby, I sought out some information from a couple of sources close to the sport: from league President Amber Young, also known by the skating name Vera Venom, and Vice-President Loran Marsan, who goes by the moniker Gypsy Trample.
The team started out in September 2010 when founder Jessica Beckford posted on Facebook, soliciting interest in an Athens-based team.
"By the following month, we had about 13 girls who we deemed 'The Original 13' and from there it just kind of spread and currently, to date, we have about 25 to 30 members," said Young. 
For Marsan, her introduction to roller derby came by way of chance meeting with Beckford.
"I've always done a lot of sports, I did softball for a really long time and was looking for something a little bit more intense and was thinking about joining and rugby team, and ran into her and she was like 'check out roller derby' and I came the next Sunday and was instantly in love, I was like 'this is it, this is my sport'," said Marsan.
If, when you think of roller derby, you imagine tough women with saucy pseudonyms dressed up in fishnets and elbow pads pushing each other around, you'd only be partially right.  
The names are for fun, something to reflect each player's attitude or something special about her.  Each name has to be checked against a master list to make sure there are no duplicate derby players.  
"It can be similar but no two identical names," said Young.
It is then officially approved. As for the apparel, Marsan says it's as much about functionality as fun.
"Some of it's functional, some of it's just because we're women and we like to look good.  And on top of that, it's really fun to be like 'I'm going to wear this mini skirt and you're going to think I'm all girly and then I'm going to knock you down," said Marsan.
Fishnet stocking help hold up the players' knee pads.  Marsan says she wears a short skirt because her shorts underneath have hip pads to protect her.
Roller derby operates under the governing body of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and the organization has a 40-page rulebook.  
Young says there are legal zones where you can hit someone to take an opponent down and the object is more than just physical.
"A lot of people when they think of derby, they think of the elbows," says Young.
"The theatrical stuff from the 70s," explains Marsan. "And that was actually on a bank track, one of the big differences is we play on a flat track and this is part of why it's gotten so huge nationally, because you can do it anywhere."
For the Hell Betties, anywhere means practice at Dow's Rollarena.  Both ladies agree, the sport is surging in popularity these days.
"It is getting huge, I mean, the 70s, that was the whole theatrical, that was scripted, it was merely entertainment.  It was a form of entertainment," said Young. 
"Now, it's becoming so well respected that it's being considered for the 2020 Olympics," said Marsan.
People in the Athens area can get a taste of the action when the bout gets underway at 7 p.m.  The doors to Bird Arena on the Ohio University campus open at 6 p.m.